June 23, 2013 by talkaboutyork
I went to Britmums Live this weekend. For those normal people who don’t blog, you may not know what this is. It is a gathering of about 400 bloggers, mostly mothers but some dads too, who get together for two days to learn all about how to make your blog better, how to work with brands or do technical bits and pieces, be inspired and get new ideas, or simply to catch up with friends who you have ‘met’ online but now get to meet in the flesh. There are always moving or funny (or both) keynote addresses. And cake and wine feature strongly. It’s not a bad way to spend a weekend.
Except that half-way through it, I felt thoroughly meh. Actually, I felt like a complete and utter failure.
Now, that was probably partly due to PMT and my over active self-criticism and under active self-esteem.
But you see, I started blogging in 2008. That’s five years of blogging. Admittedly I haven’t done myself any favours by starting off as Home Office Mum, before becoming More to life than Laundry concurrently, before becoming Talk About York. I’m a marketing person. I know that to be successful, you need to maintain a consistent brand. I haven’t. But even before I made any changes, it took me a long time before anyone really read my blog. Gradually I got a following. But I was never really one of the ‘in crowd’. I perpetually felt like an outsider looking in.
And this weekend, people would look at my name badge and I could tell that 98% of the people there had never ever seen any of my blogs. What’s more (while I’m wallowing in self pity), I wasn’t nominated for any of the awards (never have been). I have never been asked to be a speaker at the event. And I’ve never had one of my blog posts selected to be read out at the crowd-sourced keynote.
All of that I would be ok with. Sort of. But a part of me just thinks, ‘It’s because you’re just not good enough.’
I admit, I don’t do enough to promote my blog. I don’t get involved in many linkys. I don’t tend to do sponsored posts or even many reviews. I don’t spend hours and hours on twitter and I don’t get involved in many of the other social media options that I should. I don’t spend hours on making my blog different or innovative. That hasn’t bothered me. Because my blog is my outlet for getting my thoughts down. Yes I love getting comments and I enjoy reading the blogs of those people I have come to know and really enjoy. But that’s where it ends. I should do more to meet other bloggers, read more. In short, my blog report card would probably say: must try harder.
Listening to a literary agent talk about how much you need to use your blog to help in the publicity of any book that you write, made me realise that it can’t just be a hobby, it has to become a business tool. Which sadly, takes away some of the fun of it.
All of this made me feel a bit down in the dumps.
But it was getting told that my book idea was good (great title, nice concept) but that I needed to take it and pretty much rewrite it from a different angle, that made me feel the most depressed. I am 70, 000 words in, about three chapters away from completing it. I know that it needs a complete rewrite anyway, because it needs to be sharper, slicker, better. But to start over, to change the story so much, well that feels like taking a sledge hammer to a cake I’ve spent hours icing.
What’s more, some of the lovely, talented ladies I spent time with were asked to send their books in to the agent. I wasn’t asked to do that. You can pretty it up any which way you like, it still hurts not to be asked to do that.
I have very kind friends and family who tell me that they love my writing. Even my creative writing tutor who looked after me during my course last year had this to say about my work: ‘Your final scene was perceptive and accomplished, and moved towards a solid climax and relief of tension. The characters were particularly well drawn. I’ve enjoyed teaching you, and I hope you keep writing as you are very talented.’
So why then does it feel like I am kidding myself? I know that the literary world is a brutal place where criticism is a daily expectation (actually, getting criticised is a good thing, far better than being ignored, which I think happens even more often). So I need to toughen up or give myself a stern talking to. But then I got a stern talking to from Katie Piper.
This beautiful and incredibly brave woman gave they keynote address on the Saturday morning. She had had acid thrown in her face and was raped. She’s gone on to have a career in TV, has three published books and has set up a charity for burns victims. Her story is massively inspiring. Her positive attitude really made me want to slap myself in the face and say: Man the f*ck up. Stop wallowing. Get over yourself. And try again. And then try some more.
Katie has a book called ‘Start your day with Katie’, which contains a daily motivational saying. One of them is ‘Today is a new day, a new start – no matter what happened yesterday.’
So that’s what I’m going to think when I sit down with my novel tomorrow. It is a new day. No matter what has happened in the last five years of blogging, I am going to keep writing.
If in the end it all turns out that I am not made to be a novelist, I can die without wondering ‘what if.’
Thank you to Tattie Weasel, Potty Mummy, American Resident, Mum’s Gone To, Caroline of Lunchboxworld and Secrets of the Sandpit for keeping me company throughout the weekend. And Knackered Mother’s Wine Club, it was lovely to meet you and I feel I am your perfect target audience!